By Nicholas Kobe, Contributor
[Cactus Jack; 2023]
Key tracks: “If I had”, “Bus Stop”, “LoveSickness“
Texas native Don Toliver has been making major waves in music since around 2018. He released his first album Donny Womack and had a prominent feature on CAN’T SAY by Travis Scott. Despite how long Toliver has been around, it feels like he only picked up real traction in the past year or so, or at least, got on my radar.
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The songs “No Idea” and “After Party” off his 2020 album Heaven Or Hell gained some TikTok fame, the latter of which becoming the unofficial anthem for the capybara, the world’s largest rodent and one of the goofiest creatures on this planet. Anyway, TikTok got eyes on Toliver in a way that he really hasn’t had his whole career. He’s also signed to Travis Scott’s label, Cactus Jack. I see why Travis would take to Don, considering they’re from the same city and have very similar sounds. The only issue is, underneath Travis Scott and a legion of trap artists influenced by him, Don Toliver has struggled to find a place in the modern rap scene. After listening to 2023’s Love Sick, I am still at a loss for what makes Toliver stand alone.
Generally spacy production and auto-tune rapping and singing is the main sound of Love Sick. If you heard Toliver from TikTok, or, hell, just read what I just said about his influences, this probably won’t come as a surprise. Generally, I like this brand of trap. Being influenced by Travis Scott is not a negative for me. Despite his recent controversy, I have enjoyed pretty much all of Scott’s music. What Love Sick has me asking is “why should I listen to this rather than Travis or any other rapper doing something similar?” Even on the production end of things, where this record is the strongest, I’m still not getting many answers. The spacy production is appealing in the moment, but quickly fades from memory shortly after the song ends. This is also not helped by the fact that this record pretty much sounds the same all the way through.
“Bus Stop” is a slight change of pace toward the back end, but pretty much everything else here just feels like the same song idea over and over again. The same goes for Toliver’s singing and rapping. It’s melodically appealing enough, but in a musical landscape dominated by catchy bites, even just in 15 second TikTok sounds, there’s pretty much none of that here. If there is, it sinks into the rest of the record to the extent that it doesn’t stand out when listening to the full album. The line between being too cohesive, or not enough is a tough one and Toliver falls flat into the former. While there’s some interesting features on this record, most of them are close enough to Toliver’s style or can adapt to it in a way that makes them blend in the overall sound, and not in a good way.
Charlie Wilson is the main exception – I really like his feature on “If I Had”. Lyrically there’s not much to say either. The Travis Scott brand of trap has never been lyrics first, even in the best of examples. Considering the precedent set sonically, it’s no surprise that lyrically, Toliver is even more boring. The album is riding the cliches of modern trap in a way that is not even somewhat exciting. I swear that I don’t remember a single line from this album.
To sum it all up here, I don’t really have much to say. This album is boring. While there are parts of the spacy production I enjoy, all of it is really forgettable or has been done much better elsewhere. Even after a 53 minute album, I have very little to say. Perhaps the irony of it all is due to this album being repetitive and one note, this review to a certain extent is repetitive and one note. Considering I like some of Toliver’s viral singles, and enjoy this specific breed of trap, it was disappointing to see, what could have been a contender for the upper echelon fall so hard. I’m sure Toliver has some good songs left in him, and perhaps he can improve upon this sound, but something unique has to come on his next project to make a full album worth a listen.